Sunday, May 9, 2010

Philadelphia Regional & Independent Stock Exchange (PRAISE): Investing in Community

Reposted from Green Jobs Philly
by Paul Glover

Everybody wants more money so they can enjoy life, send kids to college and retire well. To achieve these, over 40% of American households have invested in stocks and bonds.

But Wall Street is risky and even destructive. Bull markets lure the middle class to bet heavily then, often, their money dissolves. $1,000 worth of Nortel stock one year ago now yields $13.00. Enron's $1,000 is now $41; Worldcom lost $995 of the thousand. These tophat crooks can't be controlled: the watchdog workload of the Securities & Exchange Commission grew by 80% between 1991-2000 while staff grew just 20%.

Even when the market's rising, only 3% of trading is essentials like food and fuel. Warmaking, prisons, traffic accidents and environmental depletion are profitable, while neighborhoods and family farms fail.

Where's a safer place to invest? Many now realize that unless the global economy is based on a world of stable communities amid healthy environments, trading stable currencies, then bank accounts are just worthless big numbers. Getting reliably rich means investing in community.

So let the big boys shoot craps with their billions — we can bring our pensions and savings home to rebuild America, starting in Philadelphia. Local wealth will make our city an outstanding place to raise kids and retire, providing steady friends, child care and home care; vacations and fun; good healthy food; water and air; civic beauty; least crime. Investors large and small can systematically create a mutual enterprise system providing us retirement equity transferable to other communities with affiliated programs.

Creating these communities, to ensure our personal security within a safer world, requires new kinds of investment, managed by people we trust and control — fellow Philadelphians whose homes and jobs depend on PRAISE local business development. New programs are beginning which will retain wealth locally, stimlate thousands of creative jobs, meet all basic needs, share power with lower-income residents, repair the environemnt, and distinguish Philadelphia as one of the most beautiful cities in the Americas.

The price tag for these programs, $200 million, is roughly one percent of total annual wages & salaries earned in Philadelphia. It's five percent of the City of Philadelphia's budget. It's Temple University's endowment. It's the wealth Bill Gates has gained on a good day. It's two hours of additional federal debt.

How could we raise this money without relying on the lottery or taxes? The Philadelphia Regional and Independent Stock Exchange (PRAISE) will enable a wide range of private investors to invest safely in Philadelphia to build genuine wealth and security. Everyone, rich and poor, has some type of capital required — skills, tools, time, topsoil, property, cash. PRAISE pools this capital, defines program RFPs, issues bonds and negotiables, selects contractors, provides grants and loans to the businesses described below, monitors program progres, redeems bonds by issuing business notes, defines the transferability of bonds.

Here are the details:
What are the guiding principles?
How is PRAISE different from a Community Development Corporation?
What do investors get?
What companies does it invest in?
How is the corporation structured?
Who manages it?
How is community progress measured?
How is PRAISE related to government?
How do we begin?

What are the guiding principles?

This Mutual Enterprise System retains and expands wealth to provide jobs that clean the environment. It converts capital into harmless and beneficial efforts. It provides basic benefits for all, and special benefits for investors. It transfers technological and economic power to lower-income residents, building relevant skills. Public benefit is personal benefit, whether we're rich or poor.
How is PRAISE different from a Community Development Corporation?

* Investments may be made with capital other than dollars
* Repays investors and donors
* Repays with regional bonds/notes redeemable for services and goods
* Pays half of interest in advance
* Elects seats on the Exchange by community rather than by purchase or appointment
* Businesses are selected which rely on technologies manageable by neighborhoods rather than centralized expertise/machinery, and which reduce pollution
* Businesses are selected which transfer economic power to community, rather than agencies which help the poor stay poor
* Relies on community-based market indicators set by the Securities and Ecologies Commission (SEC) rather than narrower profit/loss measures
* Monetizes tools, skills, crops, soil, volunteer hours, labor hours, development rights transferred (incentive for buyer as well as seller), negawatts, restraint of childbirth, locally-made warranty
* Regulates transfers of negotiables/bonds among the PRAISE programs as services available

What do investors get?

Transferable equity in community enterprises that provide secure sources of food, fuel, and housing. Interest earned is community interest, in order to provide investors with immediate return, fun, food, health, housing, keys to city, gratitude, inheritance, retirement security, in the form of negotiables, bonds, services, goods.

Credits issued are valued according to priorities set by PRAISE.

Investors gain ownership that's anchored to region to benefit a community which includes themselves. Stocks in such companies transferable benefits to affiliated companies elsewhere.

They receive community interest in the form of discounts (in advance) and services (including municipal non-utility), standard accrual, authority and honors.
Largest investors are repaid not only directly by direct investment, but by the new market's rising from energy efficiency, discretionary spending, and ecotourism.
Thus, ultimately, investors get to live well in a good community. They provide a heritage for their children and grandchildren. They serve America and the world.
EXAMPLE: Joe buys $500 of four-year PRAISE bonds. He receives an immediate 8% Community Interest ($40) in the form of discount (≥25%) coupons provided by local businesses which themselves receive long-term PRAISE bonds at half the value of the discount given.
EXAMPLE: Jessie volunteers 50 hours installing insulation and receives $500 of PRAISE bonds. Interest and principal are repaid as above.
EXAMPLE: Ephraim sells a building to PRAISE for $150,000 of PRAISE bonds.
EXAMPLE: Elana transfers property development rights valued at $50,000 to PRAISE for a tax deduction plus $10,000 of PRAISE bonds.

As PRAISE businesses develop and issue their own store notes (regulated by PRAISE), these investors may select to redeem some of their PRAISE bonds for store notes, or negawatts, or local currency, at principle + another 8% interest ($40 in Joe's example above), a total of 16% interest ($80 for Joe).

The same applies to those who invest volunteer hours doing work needed by any PRAISE business. Hours of labor are paid with PRAISE bonds redeemable for PRAISE goods and services as available.
What companies does it invest in?

Energy conservation is the foundation of economic development. Millions of dollars yearly kept in Philadelphia, not paid to PECO, is money which can be spent here to stimulate new enterprises and jobs that serve our broader aims. Other basics, like food, water, housing, health care and transportation are top priorities.


* Insulation: a countrywide overhaul would cut our heating/cooling bills by over 80%, giving us discretionary income to support local businesses and farms, thus creating new jobs and strengthening local culture. The foundation of economic development.
* Superwindows are translucent walls with R20 and higher.
* Cogeneration uses nearly all of other wasted natural gas and heat.
* Retrofit of walls and attics cuts heating/cooling bills by 80%.
* Alternative energy co-ops; solar, wind, hydro
* Urban woodlots/forests
* Depaving


* Growing locally and converting harvests into pasta, canned goods and dehydrated stock.
* Food Processing Center: Expands local agriculture by enabling farmers to grow for more than the seasonal market.
* Bulk Food Center sells the above below commercial rates
* Edible parks and orchards invite free harvest


* Waterless Toilets: Replace toxic sewage sludge with clean, sweet-smelling fertilizer. No more pooping into clean water.
* Water Recharge Basins insulate us from drought.


* Trollies: Connecting neighborhood car-free. More than transportation, ultralight rail cars can be handcrafted with inlay wood, stained glass, neon Liberty Bells, and musicians on-board. Big boost to both tourism and transit.
* Bike lanes and paths would allow us to move safely without traffic jams and pollution. They permit emergency vehicles to move freely.
* Bicycle HPUV manufacture
* Street reclamation


* Ownership stabilizes neighborhoods, by strengthening community participation.
* Co-housing and retirement co-ops: makes life less costly, more energy-efficient and more friendly.


* Import Replacement Center: barter, trade, bank; connects regional skills and tools to create flexible manufacturing networks that capture contracts.
* Re-use center and warehouse capture useful goods and materials that would be tossed into dumps.
* Re-manufacturing center utilizes component parts from non-reusable items.
* Incubator for community-based ecological enterprises reduces operating costs for each enterprise.
* Retail outlets for prototypes test markets the above.
* Dream Come True Job Center connects people to the regional resources that make our wildest hopes real.


* Alternative healing centers rely on natural strength and remedies to promote wellness, prevent illness, and revive.
* Health fund allows us to self-insure, keeping $50 million per year in insurance payments in this county instead of wasting on HMOs.
* Medical/dental clinic co-ops provide free care for low-income residents.


* Teaching the above refines and spreads thoes processes
* Community meeting spaces for congresses ensure fullest public participation


* Art; mosaics, murals
* Theatre
* Music
* Poetry

How is PRAISE structured?

Guided by an elected board of directors subject to referenda initiated by investors or community. Management is organized so that community has direct intervention, expertise is rotated rather than entrenched, new expertise develops reflecting ever-changing circumstances, main incentive is services.

* Each shareholder has one vote regardless of investment size
* Each community member has one vote
* Democratically elected boards
* Celebrate citizens' right to referendum, recall and congress (special meetings). Constrains tendency of any organization to become bureaucratized and ingrown, serving staff more than the public. Staff must agree to set examples; to be paid regional credits, live simply, and be compensated by continual revolution
* Local woodlots and wetland larger than 440 square feet have total 25% of votes on any proposal to cut or drain them. They vote on no such proposals.

Who manages it?

Each business agrees to the following:

1. Maximum salary double the lowest paid. Maximum pay double the livable wage. Management and staff are motivated by mission, satisfied with right livelihood, paid in-kind and regional credits
2. Employees must reside within the community
3. Local sourcing; RFP for machines, raw materials, design, labor to maximum possible
4. Adaptive re-use of buildings. No new footprint or paving expansion.
5. Redeem PRAISE stock
6. One vote per resident stockholder
7. One vote per resident
8. Board term limits: former voting members invited to remain as elders
9. Subject to shareholder and community right to referendum
10. Businesses can borrow against the general fund and repay it as donated in sequence or sell services
11. Provide public accounting of credits issues
12. Redistribute to PRAISE upon dissolution
13. Links to related programs worldwide

Each business could operate with separate 501(c)3. But under PRAISE umbrella, they:

1. Coordinate skills, tools, staffs, urban land use
2. Share grants, attract investors
3. Issue/redeem credits interchangeably among themselves to broaden return on investment and attraction of bonds
4. Gain greater cultural impact as part of larger process
5. Share powers of CDC in NYS

How is community progress measured?

The SECURITIES AND ECOLOGIES COMMISSION (SEC) defines, valuates, and compiles indicators of local economic health, including such measures as: small farm base, soil depth and rainfall; shopping locally; population stability, birth rate and age distribution; insulation and fireproofing; solar, wind, and hydro power generation; bike and transit usage; employment and crime. Creates a monthly index based on the above.

SEC ventures a specific formula for calculating an indexed increase or decline of sustainable local economy, based on these indicators. Valuations are weighted relative to one another according to long-range communitywide impact. They are constantly adjusted to create a more full and balanced portrait of the local economy. The SEC database plugs in the numbers, calculates values, subtotals and total. Raw data are obtained by regular arrangements with relevant agencies or through FOIA. Some are fixed infrastructure calculations; others change monthly, quarterly, semiannually, annually or decenialy. Best estimates may be sufficient. See Philadelphia's New Economic Indicators

SEC issues a biennial Seventh Generation report, projecting the impact of trends upon Philadelphians 200 years hence. SEC submits suggested indicator revisions for public discussion.

The five members of the SEC are elected to three year terms. Values may be updated by local university classes, and other volunteers.
How is PRAISE related to government?

Gradually taking over certain government functions on a nonprofit direct democratic basis; volunteers earning community equity replace taxes collected by force. To the extent government approval has been mandated to establish, fun and regulate, it's essential to have public officials and staff who welcome changes of these types. PRAISE seeks to elect citizens who will provide a supportive interface with the state/federal government.

Through PRAISE investment, Philadelphia becomes a fully democratic intentional community where privacy and ownership are secured, while social spaces are plentiful. Most citizens participate as neighbors in mutual aid associations which entitle them to free and low cost health care, fresh local organic food, living in homes which are so well insulated that costs for heating and cooling are mild. Philadelphians are able to get around town on foot, by bike, by trolley, and on buses. Streets are safe and quiet but for children playing. The sidewalks are painted with mosaics, and buildings with murals. Cayuga Lake becomes so clean again that it's full of fish for those who eat them.

Taken together, these will allow us to relax in a beautiful, exciting community, raising the standard of living while lowering the cost of living and setting examples for the whole country. Philadelphia will become a vast satisfaction to residents and a powerful example to the world.
How do we begin?

* Public meeting to form 501(c)3 to operate within Pennsylvania Associations Law and Federal SEC regulations
* Create bylaws
* Elect board
* Solicit donations and investments
* Prioritize utilization of funds
* Issue RFPs to form new businesses
* SEC public meetings elect first members and gather data


In all cases, priority to local workers and materials, local/regional manufacture, acception local/regional credits:

Energy Generation & Conservation to provide fuels without global warming:

* Insulation
o Windows - ≥R20: standard and irregular sizes, export projections
o Walls - >R50: most durable yet biodegradable, lightweight, nontoxic, water- and fire-resistant
o Attic - >R50: most durable yet biodegradable, lightweight, nontoxic, water- and fire-resistant
o Heat exchangers
* Solar electric (NISEG) RFP: photovoltaic arrays, collectors, shingles; maximum efficiency, durability, kwh cost, least toxic. Manufacturing: inputs and wastes, installers
* Wind electric
* Wind pumping
* Hydroelectric
* Cogeneration: District/neighborhood/business/institutional HVAC
* Natural gas in city RFP: Locate, define capacity, define quality, equipment for filtering, calculate 500-year supply ration, define distribution district for maximum efficiency


* More than transportation, ultralight rail cars would be handcrafted with inlay wood, stained glass, neon Libery Bells, and musicians on board. Potentially a big boost to both tourism and transit.
* RFP::7nbsp; Installation and maintenance of standard guage trackage, installation and maintance of electric wires, staff (conductors, repair, maintenance, promotion), garage & shop, tools & spare parts, signage, promotion, insurance, dedicated hydroelectricity, cogeneration, districts, elected Philadelphia Trolley Authority board; grants, referenda


* Food processing center
* Bulk food center
* Urban orchards

Compost Toilets

* Single family, duplex, apartment building (with NSF approval), piping & solar-powered ventilators, installation, monitoring

Water Recharge Basins

* Locate, define capacity, design spreading systems; wells, pumps, EIS scope; stability of strata, salinity impact


* Retrofit design and costs to join adjacent houses, materials inventory; local materials, soundproofing, limited equity

Soundprooofing enables people to live at greater density with less stress

* Lightweight, ease of installation

Import Replacement Center
Community Currencies could donate local money at-cost to local government and nonprofits, enabling millions of dollars of services to be provided without raising taxes and without paying interest on bonds. HOURS would be welcome everywhere when government agrees to accept them for tax payment.

Glover teaches Metropolitan Ecology at Temple University, and is a "consultivist" for grassroots economic development. A community economist with a degree in City Management, he is the founder of community programs like Ithaca's HOURS local currency, Health Democracy, Citizen Planners, and the Philly Orchard project.

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